Sarah Semon, Ph.D.

Team Leader / President

Sarah earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction in Special Education with a cognate in Ethics and Qualitative Research from the University of South Florida. She is a Visiting Instructor of Special Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at USF and has over 20 years of experience teaching in K-12 and Higher Education settings. Sarah has dedicated her career to improving inclusive education services for diverse learners. She has extensive experience writing and managing federal and state grant projects in Special Education in Florida and Iowa. She has presented educational research findings at national conferences, serves as an academic journal reviewer, and has co-authored numerous journal articles and book chapters.

Phyllis Jones, Ph.D.


Phyllis is a professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning at the University of South Florida. Phyllis taught and was a deputy head in schools in the UK for fifteen years before she entered teacher education. She developed, leads and teaches on the online masters Autism Spectrum Disorders and/or Severe Intellectual Disabilities program. She has extensive experience developing online modules that engage teachers in issues of teaching and learning for students with the most complex disabilities. She also consults to schools and school districts nationally and internationally around teaching students with disabilities in an enriched and personalized way.

Vicki Caruana, Ph.D.


Vicki Caruana, Ph.D. is an associate professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York where she also serves as the gifted program coordinator. Vicki’s teaching career began in a middle school learning disabilities resource room where she taught literacy. As the program coordinator for both the Special Education and Gifted Programs at her college, Vicki works closely with surrounding districts to prepare teachers in effective differentiation practices that foster achievement gains for gifted readers. Her most recent books – Success with IEP’s: Solving five common implementation challenges in the classroom (ASCD, 2017) and Literacy Strategies for Gifted and Accelerated Readers (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020) – are used for both teacher preparation and professional development. To learn more, visit Vicki’s website and blog at

Nicholas Catania, Ph.D.

Instructional Coach

Nicholas earned his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction in Special Education with a certificate in Qualitative Research from the University of South Florida. He is a Visiting Instructor of Elementary Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning and has 13 years of teaching experience in K-12 and Higher Education settings. His research interests include teacher preparation for social justice as well as pedagogical practices for meeting the needs of diverse student populations including LGBTQ students. He has presented his work at multiple national and international conferences and has co-authored multiple journal articles and book chapters.

Pamela Glenn, M.Ed.


Pamela Glenn holds her Bachelor of Science from the University of Wales, UK and a Master of Science in Management from Illinois State University. She also recently earned her second Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida. Pamela has worked for Polk County schools for sixteen years. For the first six years, she was a substitute teacher and a self-contained ESE para-professional, and for the most recent last ten years Pamela has been an outstanding as an elementary classroom teacher. As a parent of a child with a developmental delay, Pamela is an advocate for both the students and parents of this special population. She is known for building life-long ties with her students and their families. Her expectations are set high so her students are able to rise to meet their potential – not limited by generalizations.

Amanda Russell, M.Ed.

Instructional Coach

Amanda Russell has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Masters of Education in Collaborative Teaching and Learning from Florida Southern College. She has been an instructional coach in Pasco County schools since 2018. She has worked as an elementary classroom teacher for seventeen years. During that time she has served many students with special needs. She has taught reading, math, science, and social studies to children with autism, hydrocephalus, specific learning disabilities in reading and math, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and Attention Deficit Disorder. Amanda has also taught many children to whom English is a second language.

Gretchen Stewart, Ph.D.

Instructional Coach

Gretchen has worked in public education for more than 20 years. Her passion lies in school turnaround, inclusion, and innovative teaching and learning strategies. Gretchen has taught both general and special education K-12. She has been an instructional coach in Pasco County schools since 2018. Gretchen is a former elementary Teacher of the Year and holds Leadership and Principal certification in 3 states. Gretchen is an advocate for and parent to, two school aged children with Autism and developmental disabilities. Gretchen holds a M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction K12, a M.A. in Special Education, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, Special Education, with a focus on Autism and Neuroscience from the University of South Florida. Gretchen is a staunch advocate for inclusion and delivery on the promise of a meaningful education for every student.

Ashley Wickersham, M.Ed.

Instructional Coach

Ashley Wickersham earned a Bachelor of Science and Masters in Exceptional Student Education from Southeastern University. She has experience working in private and public schools. During her years in the classroom, she has worked as an ESE separate class teacher, Inclusion teacher, and 3rd grade general education teacher. She also had the opportunity of being an Assistant Principal at a private school. Ashley was chosen as the 2018 Teacher of the Year at an elementary school she previously worked for. Currently, she is enrolled in the Leadership in Literary Intervention (LLI) doctoral program as a full-time student in Special Education at the University of South Florida. At USF, she also works with preservice and mentor teachers.